Alfred Henry BENCE

BENCE, Alfred Henry, B.A., LL.B.

Personal Data

Progressive Conservative
Saskatoon City (Saskatchewan)
Birth Date
October 18, 1908
Deceased Date
May 27, 1977

Parliamentary Career

August 19, 1940 - April 16, 1945
  Saskatoon City (Saskatchewan)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 132 of 133)

February 17, 1941

1. Who is the deputy minister of labour?

2. When was he appointed?

3. What is his salary?

4. Who was his predecessor?

5. What was his salary?

6. Has an associate deputy minister of labour been appointed?

7. If so, is this a new position?

8. Who has been appointed to this position?

9. What is his salary?

10. Has an executive assistant to the deputy minister of labour been appointed?

11. If so, is this a new position?

12. Who has been appointed to this position?

13. What is the salary of the person so appointed?

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February 17, 1941

1. Has any flour, which was not milled in Canada, been purchased for use in any air service training school in Canada since September 4, 1939?

2. If so, where was it milled, and what quantity was supplied?

3. To what training schools was it sent?

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February 17, 1941


For a copy of the letter or letters of resignation of Mr. W. J. Sanderson from his position in the Department of Munitions and Supply, and any correspondence, memoranda or other documents relating to such resignation.

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November 28, 1940


I realize that there is one in far eastern Canada, but I am only discussing the question from the point of view of the western provinces. It is true that the relief problem in the prairie provinces was not as great this summer as it had been in many of the years before. It was not as great this fall, either, but there are still many people on relief in Saskatoon, and it is anticipated that the number will be considerably augmented in the next few months, because the work they have been doing has been completed or nearly completed. They have been building air ports and barracks and similar construction, but after the work is done there is nothing further for them to do and they must go back on relief. These works in themselves will not give employment except to the army and navy, and unless we do something to build factories or industrial concerns, which will in themselves provide employment, we shall always have a problem on the western prairies.

Besides relief, there is a tremendous labour force on the farms, and a part of the farmer's product will not be wanted and he will have to be supported by the state either directly or indirectly. This anomaly of a great labour shortage in one part of the country and a great force of labour in another, idle and supported in large part from public funds, should not be allowed to continue without some strenuous efforts being made to correct it.

The Minister of Munitions and Supply (Mr. Howe) explained the other day that the reason why so many of the industries for war purposes were being concentrated in Ontario and Quebec was that hydro-electric power made for low cost of production. He did not say that it was essential for efficient work; he did not say that the work could not be done in the west and in other parts of Canada just as quickly and efficiently as in Ontario and Quebec. The point he stressed was that it could be done more cheaply in these two provinces. Speaking to this house last May he said:

I am greatly interested in just one thing, and that is getting the best material available in the shortest time and at the lowest price.

In the house the other day he said that he wished to conduct his department as he would

a business concern. These are laudable sentiments and in a large measure we can all agree with them. One thing he seems to have forgotten is the fact that this is an effort by the whole of Canada and that the whole of Canada wishes to participate in providing essential war materials. I would suggest to him that if we could work out some scheme which, although possibly it would cost the department more money now, would in the long run save money for Canada, it would be a good thing.

We should look at the matter from a much broader point of view, and my suggestion is that at the risk of costing a little more now, so long as speed is not impaired, and so long as the war effort is not impeded, we should make a strenuous effort through the medium of war industry to divert the great labour force in western Canada and in other parts of the country outside Ontario and Quebec, at least in part, from their present occupations into essential war industries. In my own city war work on a smaller scale could be done now, but it may be that it could not be done at a price which would compete with that available in eastern Canada. There is a growing demand in the west to transfer labour from grain production to necessary war work. To bonus nonproduction, idleness or useless overproduction is economically unsound. We must have a diversified economy throughout our country, not only to assist in the war work but for post-war purposes.

There is an opportunity before us which we must not miss. If we do not take advantage of it now, we shall probably never have it again. The self-sufficiency which the European nations attained after the first great war, and the difficulty of getting a remunerative price for wheat in peace time, should be warning to us to take advantage of this opportunity when we have it. If we plan carefully and establish industries in other parts of Canada-and as I said I am not by any means confining myself to the prairies-in the long run we shall be able to save a great deal of money and establish the economic structure of this dominion on a sound basis. It is imperative that we do everything in our power to iron out the economic sectionalism which besets this country like a plague.

In conclusion I wish to associate myself most strongly and sincerely with those who have raised their voices in this house on behalf of the soldiers with regard to the request for free transportation. The Associate Minister of National Defence (Mr. Power) indicated I believe this afternoon that nothing was going to be done in this regard as far as

Suspension of Standing Order

Christmas leave is concerned. Well, I trust the government will not make that final. In any event I make this plea, that they do not allow any soldier, sailor or airman to go overseas without first having an opportunity to go and see his loved ones.

On motion of Mr. Gladstone the debate was adjourned.

On motion of Mr. Crerar the house adjourned at 10.45 p.m.

Friday, November 29, 1940.

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November 28, 1940

Mr. A. H. BENCE (Saskatoon City):

Mr. Speakpr, upon rising to speak in this house for the first, time I should like to take this opportunity of paying a tribute to my immedi-

ate predecessor from the city of Saskatoon. The late Reverend W. G. Brown was a man of the very highest character and ability, and one who was affectionately regarded by all those with whom he came in contact, regardless of their political affiliations. He came to this house from no selfish motive, for no reasons of self-advancement, but purely for the purpose of speaking on behalf of those people for whom he had laboured all the days of his life, men and women in destitute and necessitous circumstances. His passing was a great blow to the city from which I come and to this country which he loved so well.

This evening I wish to discuss two matters relating to western economy. I am not a farmer and I do not have that detailed knowledge of farming which can be acquired only by those actually engaged in that occupation, but I did spend some part of my youth on the farm. I am also a resident of the city of Saskatoon, -which is the hub of the greatest hard wheat growing country in the world, and I know how vital the production and sale of our wheat are not only to the farmers themselves but to those residing in cities such as the one from which I come. I know how very much concerned we are in the west over the situation that exists out there at the present time. Only a very small fringe of the population of my city is actually engaged in farming, some 1,500 out of about 43,000 people, but every man and woman in my constituency is materially interested either directly or indirectly in agriculture and particularly in wheat and the price of it. The whole economy of my constituency, indeed of my province, depends upon the production of wheat and the money that, is obtained for it.

It is bad enough to have to exist in an economy that is dependent upon a price of 70 cents for No. 1 northern at Fort William, which means about 52 cents in my district. That is a price which it is generally conceded is not sufficient to keep the farmer on the land as an efficient producer. I was pleased indeed, as I am sure many other members were, to hear the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) make that admission the other day when he stated in the house:

It is generally admitted that 70 cents advance at Fort William, which nets the farmer about 50 cents a bushel, does not cover his total costs of production and therefore does not maintain him as a contented producer.

I like those words, "contented producer," because I am convinced that you cannot have an efficient producer unless you have one that is at least reasonably contented. May I

The Address-Mr. Bence

express the hope that the hon. Minister of Agriculture will continue to impress that fact upon the house and upon the government of which he is a member?

It is bad enough, as I have said, to have to exist in an economy based on wheat at that price, but it is a very sorry situation indeed when we cannot obtain even that amount of money for our product. I have been listening and watching carefully to leam what statements would be made by the government in connection with an advance on wheat stored on the farm. The two ministers who were mainly concerned with this matter after the house adjourned last August, the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. MacKinnon), have both addressed the house within the last week or so. The Minister of Agriculture had nothing to say about an advance on wheat stored on the farm, and the Minister of Trade and Commerce very little indeed. He contented himself, as I recall it, with stating that because the banks felt it was not a good risk, the government had to drop the matter.

The opinion was general throughout this land last August and September that the question of making an advance payment on wheat stored on the farm had already been settled. Indeed, some of us were taken to task because it was claimed that we were insisting upon something being considered which had already been decided upon. In proof of that fact I should like to quote briefly from an editorial in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix of August 31, 1940, as follows:

There has been a great deal of ineffective talk about the problem, a considerable effort to make use of it for political purposes and considerable demanding of things already assured.

Thus, it is tremendously important that advances be made on the wheat left on farms. That has been recognized by everyone concerned from the start. It requires no emphasis. But away back in July Ottawa had already made the decision to make such advances. Several ministers announced it in the House of Commons and have repeated it since. Yet a vast amount of energy has been used up demanding that which was already decided.

That this feeling was not restricted to Saskatoon and to Saskatchewan is evidenced by a statement appearing in Canadian Finance of September 18, 1940, from which I quote as follows:

But there have been definite statements from Ottawa that money is to be advanced to farmers on grain held in farm storage and it is generally assumed that the advances will be handled by the wheat board.

In addition to that, the Minister of Trade and Commerce on several occasions indicated most strongly that an advance would be made

and that the only question was as to the exact method of working it out. As a result of the statements that were made and of the impression at least that was given, credit was granted in many cases by the merchants, but in many other instances that was impossible because the many years of drought and low prices had left the merchants of Saskatchewan in a position where they could not advance the credit they would like to have done.

I have received a letter written on behalf of the fuel merchants of western Canada pointing out to me that there were many farmers who would be in need of the delivery of coal but who could not purchase it because all the money they had received from the sale of their quota was required to pay immediate expenses-and that was after the quota had been raised to its present level. I quote from that letter, dated September 27, 1940, as follows:

In the past it has been the practice for a farmer to bring in a load of grain and take out a load of coal-taking delivery from the car and thus saving unloading expense and perhaps getting a better quality of coal; this year, however, he has to utilize the money received from the little grain he can sell for payment of current expenses and this leaves him with little or nothing with which to purchase his fuel requirements. Cold weather will soon be upon us and these people will be looking for fuel; in nine cases out of ten the farmer will have utilized his full quota and he will, therefore, be unable to follow the practice of former years-that of selling wheat and taking out coal-and there are no coal dealers in western Canada prepared to sell fuel to the farmer without money, as their experience in this connection has been too sad over the past years.

Because of the fact that advances were not made a great deal of hardship resulted not only for the farmers but for merchants both rural, and urban, and a trade paralysis resulted which never should have been allowed to arise.

The history of what happened after parliament adjourned last August would appear to be that the Minister of Trade and Commerce stayed in Ottawa for several weeks after the date he had intended to go on his holidays, to give this matter the grave consideration which it deserved. He received representations from all parts of western Canada-the prairies in any event-and the Bracken committee was called together, under the convenership of Premier John Bracken of Manitoba, and had a conference with the government and the wheat board. But the result of these representations and of the conference was a very sad one indeed as far as the western farmers and western merchants generally were concerned.

I believe that we should have from the Minister of Trade and Commerce a fuller

The Address-Mr. Bence

The Address-Mr. Bence

there is an acute shortage as far as some skilled occupations are concerned. Moreover, the suggestion has been made in this house, and at least in one newspaper that I noticed, that women will probably have to be called to assist in manufacturing work. While this is going on, there is at the same time a relief problem in the west.

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